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Oldham’s vision for church and schools

‘Christianity must be
a religion of spiritual
experience.’ — MCS
Archives picture.

In his final visit to Singapore during the 1935 celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Methodist Mission, the venerable Bishop William F. Oldham shared his vision for the future of both church and schools – a view that is relevant, even today.

WHAT a glorious past and a most promising present we have the right to look for large results to the future. But these results must be more distinctively religious.

The past has made for us the possibility of a background that promises largest outcomes. The future must deepen these experiences and create a living organism imbedded and rooted in the Christian faith. To this end that faith must be represented in its working energy and in its spiritual results. Not so much a creedal or ritual but a living faith that enters into life, regulates conduct, and cultivates a passion for that which is godly.

I have said this presentation of the Christian faith must not be merely in its creedal and ritual aspect. It must be a religion of spiritual experience. The challenging thing about Dr Stanley Jones’ presentation of Christianity is found just there, where no truth is embarrassed by what is not experienced and where life is regnant.

One of the most cherished days of my life was when in the New York office, I was called upon by Mr Lee Choon Guan, who had been an ACS boy, his wife and his secretary. I presented this group to the entire establishment of the Board of Foreign Missions in NYC and when each of them had made brief response to the introduction, Mr Lee Choon Guan’s secretary replied at some length.

The gist of what he said was this. He was an alumnus of ACS, Singapore that when he entered that school, his people had been under severe obligation not to be affected by the religious side of the school’s teaching. He went to school under this contract. And then he turned to me and said, “I want you, Sir, to know that though I am not a formal Christian, I and several hundred like me of your own students are trying to play the game as our Master taught it to us”. I was profoundly moved. Such presentations of life are more convincing and more productive than any formal type of even the Christian religion.

To secure all this, however, the teachers must themselves be filled with a passionate desire to extend the Kingdom of their Lord and to bring under His benign sway all those with whom they have contact in their school and after school days.

The silent influences that come forth from a teacher who is himself filled with the Holy Spirit are more productive of direct religious outcomes than the most elaborate services or attractive periods of worship. To this end I would call upon all he agencies connected with the schools to seek the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about the enthronement of their Lord.

A mighty revival of religion may be looked for in the future and this revival will be rooted back in a productive Christian faith, strong in its adherence to the greater essentials of truth, and energetic in carrying out the will of God amongst the children of men.

Whatever comes and whatever goes this splendid stuff is to our hand. God help us to so handle the matter as to bring forth living results that shall through all the future enlarge and deepen the work of the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men.’ — MM, Jan-Feb 1935, p. 16.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.